If you or a loved one ever needs mental health care - who looks after you, their qualifications and how much time they have to spend caring for you matters.
Despite the settlement of the Victorian public sector nurses’ and midwives’ enterprise agreement, negotiations are continuing for mental health nurses working in the public sector. These negotiations determine mental health nurses’ staffing levels, wages and working conditions.
The outcome of these negotiations will determine the quality and level of mental health services and will affect everyone.
It is time for the Baillieu Government to stop talking about the importance of mental health services and start funding mental health improvements
All Victorians will be affected by, or know someone who is affected by mental illness.
What you should know about this dispute:
1. More Victorians are suffering from mental illness - The number of Victorians with mental illness is increasing. Nearly half (45.5%) of the Australian population will experience problems with their mental health at some stage in their lives and at least one quarter of young people aged 16 - 24 will have suffered a mental illness. Victoria’s growing population is increasing the pressure placed on public community and hospital services in mental health and on Victoria’s mental health nurses.
2. Mental health nurses save lives and keep people well in the community - Mental health nurses help keep Victorians with a mental illness well and living in the community. They are relied upon to assess their clients’ need for services and increase services when required. In the community and in hospitals mental health nurses provide therapeutic nursing care essential for early intervention, prevention and treatment response. Mental health nurses save lives.
3. Victoria needs a well-educated and highly skilled mental health nursing workforce - Recommendations in the Chief Psychiatrist’s investigation of inpatient deaths 2008-2010 highlighted the critical need for adequate numbers of mental health nurses and an appropriate skill mix. The quality of mental health services in Victoria is influenced by the number of skilled nurses available to care for the community.
4. Frontline community mental health nurses face significant workload issues - Currently mental health nurses providing care in the community are understaffed. ANF is seeking safe staffing measures to ensure mental health nurses can provide timely and safe care to clients with a mental illness. These nurses provide frontline health care to Victorians living with a mental illness; they keep clients well and reduce the need for emergency admission to hospitals. Nursing staff resources are not keeping pace with the growing demand. The Baillieu Government needs to make community mental health services a priority.
5. Unlike public hospitals, public mental health inpatient services do not have mandated staffing levels - Mental health nurse staffing reforms are long overdue and would underpin significant improvements to patient and client care. ANF is seeking mandated bed-based staffing profiles in mental health inpatient services similar to nurse/midwife patient ratios in hospitals. A mandated staffing profile of nurses prevents understaffing, ensures safe and quality care is provided by registered and enrolled nurses, prevents nursing shortages and assists in maintaining a stable nursing workforce. Nurse/midwife patient ratios in Victorian public hospitals have improved patient care and have ensured this state has not had a nurse shortage since this staffing mechanism was introduced 12 years ago.
The number of Victorians with a mental illness is increasing and this state’s growing population is placing more and more demands on its public mental health system.
It is time to stop talking about the importance of mental health services. Rhetoric doesn’t reduce waiting lists for a community mental health visit. Rhetoric doesn’t improve people’s access to an inpatient bed when they need it most.
It is time to start funding and supporting initiatives that improve these services. This will require the Baillieu Government to start respecting the work of mental health nurses and give a commitment to improving mental health nurses’ staffing levels and working conditions which all directly impact on client care.
You can help sign this petition and tell Premier Baillieu to fund more mental health nurses
Post a message of support at www.respectourwork.com.au or www.facebook.com/respectourwork
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007) National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results. ABS Cat No. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS